KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: New York Hospital Mergers Surging

A selection of health policy stories from New York, California, Ohio, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. 

The Wall Street Journal: Hospital Mergers In The New York Area Bring Cost Fears
Hospital takeovers are surging in the New York region, raising concerns that health costs could climb and care could change. In New York state, at least a dozen hospitals, many of them financially ailing, have become part of larger networks since 2011, according to the state Department of Health. More than a dozen have new owners or new affiliations in New Jersey during the same period as well (Dawsey, 8/4).

Los Angeles Times: Court Says Paid Caregivers Can’t Sue If Injured By Alzheimer Patients
Home health workers hired to care for unruly Alzheimer's patients may not sue them or their families for injuries inflicted by the patients, the California Supreme Court decided Monday. In a 5-2 decision, the state's highest court said employers have no liability as long as the caregiver was warned of the risks and the injury was caused by symptoms of the disease. Workers voluntarily assume the risk of violent injury in caring for patients with the brain disease, the court said (Dolan, 8/4).

Kaiser Health News: Cleveland's Early Medicaid Expansion Paying Off
So long before Ohio expanded Medicaid, the hospital redirected more than $30 million from Cuyahoga County taxpayers to create its very own Medicaid program for residents. Here’s how it worked: MetroHealth used extensive electronic medical records to carefully select uninsured patients and sent 28,000 of them Medicaid cards before they even applied. Then, the hospital gave highly personalized attention to some patients and kept track of them (Tribble, 8/5).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee VA Medical Center Director Optimistic About System's Future
Robert Beller was appointed director of the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2007 and oversees a health system that provided care to 61,462 veterans last year. The medical center is among 30 VA medical centers nationwide charged with treating the most complex patients. It also is an academic medical center for the Medical College of Wisconsin, and about three-fourths of its physicians in Milwaukee have faculty appointments at the medical school. The Zablocki VA Medical Center, which includes four outpatient clinics in eastern Wisconsin and employs 4,056 people, was not cited in the recent scandal involving the VA and performs better overall than most VA medical centers on public quality measures. But Beller acknowledges that the Milwaukee medical center faces many of the same challenges as the VA system, such as recruiting physicians (Boulton, 8/4).

WBUR: Governor Reviewing Mass. Bill That Would Expand Autism Supports
Many parents of children on the autism spectrum are celebrating passage of a bill that is among dozens already on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk. The bill would create a tax-free savings account for autism and disability care; would require Medicaid coverage for autism behavioral treatment; and would give thousands of residents with autism access to state disability services. Currently only those whose IQ is under 70 qualify (Bebinger, 8/4).

The Associated Press: Insurers Face Tougher Mental Health Coverage Fines
A bill approved Monday by the Legislature would increase penalties for health insurance companies that provide substandard benefits for mental health care. SB1046 advanced to the governor's desk on a 70-0 vote in the Assembly. It aims to strengthen long-standing rules designed to increase patient access to psychiatric treatment by preventing insurers from skimping on benefits. Under state and federal laws, insurers must cover treatments for serious mental illness similar to how they would cover other injuries and diseases. That means plans cannot include separate limits on mental health benefits or include higher co-pays and out-of-pocket costs for counseling and medication (8/4).

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